In 1984 a young aeronautical engineer called Al-Sadek Hamed Al-Shuwehdy,an opponent of Muammar Gaddafi, was hanged in a basketball stadium in Benghazi. As he hung from the rope dying, he was grabbed round his legs and dragged down until he stopped moving by a brutal young woman called Huda Ben Amer. Ben Amer was appointed Mayor of Benghazi, and went on to terrorise the people Benghazi for the decades since. She escaped the Benghazi uprising, and is waiting to return if the Libyan army retake control in the next few days.
Al-Sadek’s story matters, not just because of the horror of his death.
In the next few days Britain will have to decide whether to lead efforts to create a no-fly zone in Libya. No liberal can deny that the rebels are preferable to Gaddafi’s tyranny. But a few people are still questioning whether we have a right in international law to intervene if the UN Security Council refuses to authorise a no-fly zone.
In fact international law, as used in Kosovo, allows unilateral intervention if it is going to prevent an imminent humanitarian catastrophe. In Libya this week we can reasonably judge that there is an imminent humanitarian catastrophe. Thousands of people have already died - and with Gaddafi’s murderers like Huda Ben Amer waiting, we can be sure that thousands more will die if they win.
We need a no-fly zone as soon as possible - and as liberals we should be proud to support one.